With Happy Hands and Happy Hearts, a Sign Language Club Begins to Take its First Steps

By Devon Hall – Contributing Writer

The Happy Hands Sign Language Club is attempting to gain traction as their constitution is reviewed by the Student Senate. With many clubs already on campus, it can be difficult to create something new. Happy Hands plans to do just that with a club based on lessons in ASL as well as Deaf culture and grammar.

If approved, the club meetings will most likely begin with a discussion of any upcoming events being put on by the club or the Deaf community and then continue with a short lesson in ASL and some interactive practice in conversation. Meetings will most likely take place Thursday evenings.

Elizabeth (“Iggy”) Prescott, the hopeful President of the club, says she first noticed students’ interest in casually learning sign language while she was at summer experience. During the week, she participated in a talent show where she signed along to the song “This Is Halloween”.

“My original plan was to run the club like a class” said Prescott. “But then I figured that it wasn’t suitable for a bunch of students to try to go to another class”.

The club would most likely commence next semester if the constitution goes through. In order to introduce the community to ASL and advertise the club, Prescott plans to orchestrate signing events, during which any interested club members will sign along to songs ,“depending on how people take to it,” Prescott said.

In the event that Happy Hands is approved, club officials will be determined by vote. Prescott says the club currently has a pretty strong following.

“Most of the clubs I’ve been to have had 6 to twenty people” she said, “but there’s already thirty people in our Facebook group”.

Prospective secretary Emily Mokler, a Junior who recently transferred from SMCC, was introduced to ASL by Prescott during summer experience. “At mealtimes we chat and she teaches me words and phrases in ASL, which is really fun” she said.

Mokler says she mostly enjoys learning basic words and phrases, “so I could at least have a basic conversation.” She has enjoyed it all the more in learning with Prescott, since “there’s actually someone to sign back with!” Mokler also noted that she hopes learning ASL will help open doors and increase career opportunities down the road.

Learning sign language is not without its quirks, as Prescott admitted, “Sometimes when I’m tired, I start to sign when I’m talking”. Prescott says she also finds herself playing ASL fingerspelling games when she’s in the car, trying to spell words on street signs quickly before they pass her by.

Interested students can find out more by contacting Prescott or Mokler.

Renovations Make the Tech Commons a Communal Area for Students, Faculty and Staff

By Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer

UMF’s Technology Commons is being renovated to be more student and faculty friendly; it will now have more office space for staff in the Global Education and internship departments, added classrooms/co-labs and a lounge for students to study and collaborate with each other.

This project is being done in two halves. “We started the construction late spring/early summer, and because of money involved, we’re kind of ‘phasing it.’ So right now we’re going to do the first phase which is the right hand side of the hallway,” said Laurie Gardner, the chief business officer at UMF.

The right hand side, which will include the lounge as well as co-lab space and some offices, should be done within the next month. “Knock on wood, I am hoping, depending on furniture, we should probably see that open mid to late October,” said Gardner.  

Because the left side includes finding a place for the computer lab, that part will take longer to start. “I would love to get that done soon, but we have to re-locate a classroom first. That’s going to take some time to do,” said Gardner. “Worst case scenario, we’re looking at this time next year for it to be open 100%. Best case, we’ll be able to do it quicker.”

The tech commons has been a popular spot on campus for students to do homework and print. “I have been there [to work] on assignments, I’ve gone there for classes, and I’ve gone there just to print out assignments for other classes, so it’s a pretty universal, ‘one stop shop’,” said Bryan Eldridge, a junior Elementary Education major. “I think that it’s a great spot for both students and faculty and I think [the Tech Commons] is very heavily used by everyone on campus.”

Many students utilized the Tech Commons when other places weren’t conducive to studying. “I am wondering when it’s going to be all done,” said Kelsey Dunn, a senior Early Childhood Education major. “It was a place I’d get the majority of my homework done. Having Tech Commons open is a good backup for when the study room [in the residence hall] is occupied and the library is closed.”

The goal of renovating the Technology Commons is to make it a space where all of campus can mingle. The renovations will include the addition of a lounge, more classrooms/co-labs, offices for student advancement as well as offices for global studies.

“[We are] making it a space where students can come and work together and create opportunities for themselves” said Laurie Gardner, the chief business officer at UMF. “We’re going to develop, what I think, will be an exciting area.”


Student-Athletes Strive to Strike Balance Between Sports and Academics

Student-Athletes Strive to Strike Balance Between Sports and Academics

By Devin Lachapelle – Contributing Writer

As the fall semester nears its midpoint, student-athletes at UMF say that they’re able to balance demanding coursework with busy sports schedules thanks to hard work, effective time management and the help of friends and coaches.

Gwen Baker, a junior and member of the women’s cross country team, said that strong time management skills are extremely important for student-athletes given their often-crowded schedules.

“I like to joke that I don’t exist on Tuesdays; I’m busy from 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with only a small break in the afternoon,” she said with a laugh. Baker then said, “It’s been a process to learn how to be organized as an athlete. I’ve been very organized because I’ve had to be.”

Michael Pingree, also a junior and a goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team, said that student-athletes often have to make difficult decisions in an effort to not get behind on schoolwork.

“You have to make tough choices and say no,” he said, “whether it be going out of town or going out one night, just because you have a game the next morning.”

Pingree stressed the importance of having a supportive group of friends to help stay motivated. “During the season, you have to have a friend group to keep everything balanced,” Pingree said. “You can really burn yourself out. To have a peer group that you can talk to about it or hang out with really helps.”

Junior and field hockey player Chelsea Ballard mentioned that her game schedule occasionally interferes with her classes. “Sometimes if I have a game on a Tuesday or Thursday night I’ll miss my Social Studies Methods class. We often leave early [for games], so I would miss my Public Writing class as well,” she said.

Ballard went on to describe the steps student-athletes have to take before any planned absences can take place. “Our coach has to sign off on a letter that tells the professor why we’re missing,” Ballard said. “Still, some professors don’t like it when we miss class.”

Ballard, like Baker, credits organization as the key to academic success for students with limited free time. “[Field hockey] takes away from my homework time,” she said. “Being both a student and an athlete, I have learned extremely good time management skills. I’m often going from one thing to another so I have to make sure I have everything organized and set up so I can make the smooth transition.”

Baker, whose athletic schedule also conflicts with her school schedule, stated that while her coaches try to maintain consistent practice times that work for most students, the coaches are flexible and do not penalize players when they do have to miss practice because of classes.

Gwen Baker (Left) competes against an opponent from Saint Josephs College (Right) during the UMF Invitational at Mt Blue High School in early September. (Photo Courtesy of C.J. Jenkins)

“Practice is at 3:45, which is usually a happy medium for everyone. I can’t run until after practice because I have Journalism then,” Baker said. “Coach knows I’ll still do the workout on my own.”

Moninda Marube, an assistant cross country coach at UMF since fall of 2016, agreed that coaches try to adapt to the needs of individual students.

“We work with their professors to ensure that classes do not fall on our training schedule or if they do, we always figure out how a student would best get their workout without missing a class.”

Marube emphasized that the key to academic and sports success was having players trust and support one another. “We have not had cases of students burning out yet,” he said. “We have caring team members who always seek to help each other to stand strong in their weak points.” Marube continued, “We have a great team chemistry and we address each member of our team at a personal level.”

Pingree and Baker both cited physical fatigue as a consistent challenge for student-athletes. Pingree said, “The biggest thing is how tired you are every day. You get home from practice, make dinner, shower, and by that time it’s already 7:00. The physical amount of preparation that goes into [sports] is the hardest thing for people to realize.” Baker said, “I’m usually exhausted coming home from weekend meets.”

Chris Strople, an Assistant Professor of Education at UMF, is the academic advisor to several varsity athletes. Professor Strople noted that student-athletes can be at risk of getting overwhelmed.

“Getting burned out by the high workload is certainly a concern,” he said. “I emphasize the importance of maintaining a balance . . . That balance is not universally achieved and so it often will be different depending on the person.”

Professor Strople, a former Division I water polo player at Loyola Marymount University, noted how important it is for student-athletes to have a support system in place. “I do have first-hand experience with the challenge of balancing the responsibilities of both athletics and academics . . . It’s not easy for anyone with the challenge of finding a balance between the two, so I would encourage them to communicate with their teammates, coaches, classmates, and professors for support when needed,” he said.

Baker, Pingree, Ballard, and Professor Strople all agreed that, despite the challenges faced by student-athletes, the connections made are well worth the effort.

“It’s not always about winning or losing,” said Professor Strople, “but often about the friendships built while working toward a collective goal.”

The women’s cross country team heads to Colby College for a meet on Friday, Oct. 6th at 4:00. A day later, the field hockey team will face off against New England College at 2:00 and the men’s soccer team will battle Green Mountain College at 3:30, both at home.

For more detailed information about the fall sports schedules, including schedules of sports not listed here, visit http://athletics.umf.maine.edu/landing/index.

UMF Honors Henry David Thoreau with Bicentennial Symposium

By Eryn Finnegan – Assistant Editor

UMF recently hosted a symposium to celebrate the legacy of author Henry David Thoreau in honor of his 200th birthday. The event featured guest speakers and UMF professors presenting a roundtable discussion, scholarly and creative works and a documentary.

Thoreau was an environmentalist and transcendentalist who most notably authored the book Walden and the essay Civil Disobedience. Thoreau’s works often investigated the environment and politics, and how people interacted with both.

Kristen Case, a UMF English professor and mastermind behind the symposium, believes Thoreau is still a relevant voice in society today. Upon realizing that UMF had nothing planned to honor the revolutionary writer, Case embraced the task of putting together this symposium.

“[The symposium] was an occasion to introduce the community to ideas and scholarship and activism that is still happening around his work,” Case said. “I wanted to show students that this stuff isn’t just [something to] read for a class, but it’s a real conversation that is happening out in the world.”

Case joined music professor Steve Pane for a collaborative performance that showcased their connections to Thoreau’s work and ideas. Case read her poetry, inspired by Thoreau’s journal entries, and Pane accompanied her on piano. Pane also performed a solo piece.

Filmmaker Huey, director of the documentary Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul, shared many of Case’s thoughts, particularly about bringing Thoreau to a contemporary audience.

“In so many documentaries about historical figures, you never make it much past when they die,” Huey said. “I didn’t want to do that… I wanted to talk about the impact he had today.”

Surveyor of the Soul featured interviews from The Walden Project,  a youth group aimed at teaching high schoolers Thoreau, Thoreau scholars and a fitting soundtrack comprised of “tunes Thoreau would have sang around the fire.”

Guest speaker James Finley, a Thoreau scholar and English professor at Texas A&M University, echoed similar sentiments about Thoreau and his legacy.

“He sees that environmentalism and social justice are very much related to each other,” said Finley. “I think in this era of climate change, [he’s] more relevant than ever.”

Case stated that she seizes any opportunity to teach Thoreau, saying, “he’s a great and timeless writer,” and that “he has a particularly resonant message for people who are college aged, who are thinking about how to spend their lives.”  

Huey and Finley both attested to this point with their own experiences of how Thoreau came into their lives.

“He was the real deal to me,” Huey said. “Even though he had been dead for over 100 years, when I read [his poem] Smoke in college, everything just clicked.”

Huey went on to add that “he [wrote] about things that concern young people.”

“I first read Thoreau in high school,” Finley said. “Walden got me thinking in ways I hadn’t before. I needed that as a 16-year-old.”

Case was overall thrilled with how the symposium went and considers it a success.

“People have stopped and talked to me and sent me emails,” Case said. “I’m glad it was a diverse day, a lot of disciplines and a lot of different forms of presentation [were represented]. I wanted it to have something for everybody.”

Kalyn Grover, a sophomore Rehabilitation Services major, said that although she was required to go to the event, she still found it interesting and enjoyable.

“I went to see Steve Pane’s performance. I thought it was interesting how he related his art form to an entirely different kind of art,” Grover said.

Case stated that she will be traveling to Paris and Sweden to take part in more Thoreau celebrations, and noted that similar events are happening all over the world.

“I think Thoreau is relevant for a lot of reasons, and I hope the symposium highlighted some of those things,” Case said.


UMF Prepares Upperclassmen for Post-Graduation

By Samuel Carignan – Contributing Writer

UMF Career Services is organizing “Graduate School and Other Post-College Opportunities Month”, a month long event to help upperclassmen transition to post-graduation life. This October, students can visit several speakers whose talks will focus either on graduate school or employment opportunities.

The program is designed to help guide students towards a career path, whether that be graduate school, employment, or a service oriented program. UMF students will have the opportunity to speak with graduate school representatives from UMaine, Colby, Bates, Simmons and Husson. Employment and service opportunity presentations will be given about the Peace Corps, Fulbright and Teach In Alaska.

Cyndi McShane, who works in the Center for Student Development as a Career

Counselor and one of the key people involved in creating Graduate School Month, is hopeful that students will learn more about themselves and their next steps.

“The great thing about a liberal arts degree is that it prepares you for a variety of outcomes,” said McShane.

Ashley Hinkley, a UMF senior majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education, is one of hundreds of students who will need to be looking at what to do post-UMF. Her current goals are “[to find] a job teaching somewhere in the state of Maine, possibly getting my masters, and moving out of my mom’s house.”

Students have real concerns about what will happen after their undergrad journey at UMF. “The (education) field is so tight that it is going to be difficult, and I might get discouraged,” said Hinkley.

As an Education major, Hinkley wishes that the events could be more helpful for future educators. “They already provide job fairs and internship opportunities, so it would be nice for UMF to bring in teachers to come in and chat,” said Hinkley. “I would want to know what the first year of teaching is like, and the best ways I can go about getting a job.”

Career Services believes that the Graduate School and Other Post-College Opportunities Month will be helpful for many UMF students.

“It is [our] goal for students to leave our events with a desire to explore their options,” said McShane.

McShane also recommends setting up a one-on-one meeting with a career counselor to help with post-graduate plans.

“We want them to know they can be supported through this process,” says McShane.

For a full list of events, you can find posters and bulletin boards on campus, or contact a Career Services employee.

To reach out, or find out more information in general, visit their webpage at http://www2.umf.maine.edu/careers/.